By Rob Benneian
(LEAMINGTON, ON) – The LaSalle Vipers, playing their second game in as many days and with five regulars out of the line-up, fell 4-1 to the Leamington Flyers Thursday night in Leamington.
LaSalle’s Nikko Sablone scored his second goal of the season at 2:24 of the second period, swatting a loose puck past Michael Barrett, to open the scoring.
From that point on, the Vipers seemed to be in protection mode and mustered up very little in terms of quality scoring chances. Playing without captain Brett Langlois, defenseman Nick Gauvin and forwards Daniel Beaudoin, Nathan Savage, and Rio Anzolin, a veteran-laden Flyers squad eventually wore the Vipers down.
“They’ve got a lot of older, stronger hockey players and our execution wasn’t there tonight,” Vipers head coach Bill Bowler said. “I don’t know if we deserved to win that game – Leamington did – but we don’t care about who’s not in the line-up, we care about who is. We had a lot of guys competing and playing their hearts out, but I don’t think any team is good enough to win when they have a few passengers.”
Leamington captain Mitch Amante buried a feed from the high slot just over five minutes into the third, and Zach Guilbeault fired home a power play goal seven minutes later to give the Flyers the lead.
Alex Friesen slipped one past Vipers goaltender Eli Billing for the insurance marker, and Kyle Quick hit an empty net to close out the scoring.
Billing, who won his first Jr B start September 18 against the Flyers, was spectacular for LaSalle despite taking the loss. He made 34 stops, including several of the highlight reel variety.
“Eli was solid,” said Bowler. “We expect our goalies to make the saves they’re supposed to, and he made some he probably shouldn’t have.”
He robbed Kyle Perkowski with a blocker save and Alex Friesen with the right pad twice in the first period. The 17 year-old rookie also made a right pad stop while stretching post-to-post to deny the Flyers a go-ahead goal moments after Amante’s tally.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate with Eli’s starts, and hopefully we can get him more goals,” said Bowler.
LaSalle went 0-5 on the power play, including four first period opportunities.
“Our power play system we had prepared wasn’t good enough, so our coaches will up with a better game plan,” said Bowler.
The Vipers next game is Wednesday night against the Flyers.
The game, sponsored by AM800, is the annual Remembrance Day Game, which will feature a pre-game ceremony to honour local veterans. The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 594, the Windsor Historical Society, the Veterans Memories Project, and guest bagpipers are all expected to take part.
Game time is 7:00 pm.